By Ringu Tulku
I am asked to go through the Hearth Sutra this time, which is not a very easy thing to do. So, the Hearth Sutra is the shortest form of the Prajnaparamita sutras. According to Tibetan Buddhists, we try to categorise the whole Sutrayana teachings of the Buddha into three. This is what we call the wheels of Dharma, the First Wheel of Dharma, the Second Wheel of Dharma and the third Wheel of Dharma. The First Wheel of Dharma is the teachings of "the four noble truths", "the twelve dependent originations" and texts like that and these are usually nowdays taken as the basic sutras that are more or less commonly accepted as Theravadin as well as general Buddhists Hinayana text. All those Sutras are belonging to the first round of teachings.
The second round of teachings are regarded as the Prajnaparamitra sutras. These teachings are mainly the Mahayana sutras, especially talking of the Prajnaparamita, the wisdom, the shunyata, the interdependence. All those teachings are regarded as the second round of teachings. It is believed that the Buddha taught this second round of teachings mainly in the Rajagriha and the areas around that, and not just one time but many.
And then the last round of teachings, the third round of teachings. These are mainly the sutras that are emphasising a more detailed explanation of the Buddha nature and things like that, like the "Lankaravatarasutra" and those kind of sutras. There are lots of sutras of that kind, regarded as the third round of teachings.
What we are trying to go trough now, is the second round of teachings, which is the Prajnaparamita sutras. There are many different lengths of the Prajnaparamita sutras. The longest according to Tibetan translation, has 100 000 syllables, each one of four lines, and that is in twelve volumes. That is the longest, and then there is some of 20 000, and then 8 000, and lots of shorter and shorter. And then there is this Hearth Sutra, which is the shortest form of Prajnaparamita sutras.
In India, Rajagriha, there is this Vulture Peak mountain, near Nalanda.
The Hearth Sutra, although it is very, very short, it is supposed to be the quintessence, the meaning of all of these big Prajnaaramita sutras, so therefore it is called the Heart Sutra, or Chidaya.
Chidaya is the hearth, Bhagaviti Prajnapramita Chidaya, that is the name of the surtra, and then in the beginning you have written here Bhagavati Urgya Paramita Chidaya, this means the Hearth to Hearth of the Prajnaparamita.
So therefore this is regarded as a very important sutra in all traditions of Mahayana, whether it is in the Zen tradition, the Chinese tradition, the Japanese or whatever: This is something which is very common and recited as a prayer, [a prayer] which is recited all the time. [It is] very important, and very essential.
The main theme?, what the sutra tries to give, is the understanding of the true nature of things. When we say the true nature, maybe we have to say that it is trying to give the egolessness or the emptiness part of the things which is more emphasized. What you mean by egolessness, is that from the Buddhist point of view, all our sufferings is based on our way of reacting, either as an aversion to [something], or attachment. And because we react to things as something, having an aversion and having to get rid of, or attachment so that we need to go after it, there is always a sense, there is always a current, there is always a struggle going on in our mind. And because of that we have the tensions, we have the anxiety, and thereby we also have the sufferings.
According to Buddhism, this is based on a misunderstanding, and this misunderstanding is in the Buddhist terminology called ignorance. But this ignorance actually is not the ignorance of not having enough information, it is not something like not having the right information or not fully understanding something, it is not like that. But it is the ignorance that you think it is something which it is not. That kind of ignorance. An assumption of something which is actually not there.
So therefore, what we call the ego from this point of view, is that when we see tings, when we hear things, when our five aggregates or six senses are functioning, this is a natural thing. This is the nature of causes and interdependent processes, and an ongoing process, a momentary process. But, because I see, because the sensation of seeing is there, according to this we are thinking, therefor we presume that there is somebody called a seer, somebody who is the seer, I. Because I hear, because the hearing is there, therefore there is a hearer. So therefore this logic is completely opposite to this ‘I think, therefore I am’. You know this logic of Descartes, which says ‘I think, therefore I am’.
So this logic is reversed, in the Buddhist way, saying that it is not because I think that I am - but ‘I am, therefore I think’, or ‘I think, therefore I assume that I am’. Do you understand that? I mean [it is] because we have the senses, and the senses work. Therefore we assume that there is an ”I”, separate from all these things and react, and this assumption of a separate identity of an I is the source of the identification of the self, and then, once you have this, there is something called I, which is different from other thing else and different from this things, so then, this I have to secure, this me [have to], secure this thing and protect it from all other things. So therefore, from [a] Buddhist point of view, what we call [a] dualistic way of things is developed, and thereby the aversion and attachment and then all the negative emotions arise.
That is the main understanding. It is possible to understand the true nature of ourselves, without having this strong assumption of a separate identity, something called ego, I, separate from the aggregates and the functioning of the different things, like seeing for instance.
Seeing is a sensation, and the seeing can not happen without the object of seeing, the I, and the interaction of these. So seeing is not just one thing, it is many things. It happens, the seeing, the sense of seeing happens, ... many things. In the same way different kinds of sensual activities happen at different levels and in different ways, but this is a natural, spontaneous way of happening.
It is not like this: Because of the seeing, therefore there is something else, something separate, something totally independent called a seer. The seeing is the sensation of seeing, and hearing is the sensation of hearing. If you see this the way things really are, then the sense of being too much egoistic, too much ego-centred, too much separate from other things, would not be that strong. It is a very difficult thing to understand, because we are so used to this way of being, so used to the sense of identifying to the ego and identify ourselves as different from others and protecting ourselves.
It is not an easy thing to do, but according to the Buddhist way of thinking, that is the only way of really seeing the true nature of ourselves and getting liberated from the suffering. So therefore the philosophy and the meditations of the Prajnaparamita, the wisdom, the insight, becomes very important in the Buddhist traditions.
So, let us go through this Sutra. First it says from ... Prajnaparamita ... that it is translated as the Hearth of the great Perfection of transcendent Wisdom.
Homage to the ... the perfection of transcendental wisdom.
So this is first making homage to, or "the supplication of the prostration", for the perfection of transcendent wisdom.
The transcendent wisdom is the understanding, or the experience of the understanding. That is the wisdom, the wisdom of the Buddas seeing the completely ultimate true nature of the things, of themselves. And because that is seeing the true nature, and that wisdom is the source, is the mother which begets, or gives birth to the enlightened beings, therefore, the Lotus Sutra is always referred to as a mother, as the mother form.
That is why the wisdom from this point of view usually is seen as a feminine aspect. So therefore wisdom is usually referred to as the feminine aspect mother.
The Prajnaparamita of the perfection of transcendent wisdom, the great wisdom, the seeing the complete insight, that which gives birth to the enlightened ... state of mind, to that I bow down.
That is because it is so important. Because it is the most important thing, it is our objective. If you are a Buddhist, if you are trying to understand the truth, then that is what you needs to add. So therefore we give homage to that kind of understanding.
This Sutra, according to the tradition, follow the instructions of the Buddha. Whenever a Buddha’s teachings were recorded, and later put into writing, he told to give two kinds of instructions. Before you record, write down or recite this Sutra or other teachings, you have to say the Prolog. It means how it happened - where the teaching was given and given to whom, and at what time etc. had to be written down. So therefore it is the beginning of every Sutra. That little accountancy of how the teachings was given and written down. It is like this:
Thus, have I heard. Once the Blessed One was dwelling in Rajagria at Vulture Peak.
So, the Buddha was in this Rajagria, near the Vulture Peak. Rajagria was the capital of Magadha at that time in India, and Vulture Peak is a small peak, but in the plains of India it is so flat that even a small peak is a big mountain.
At that time the Blessed Lord, together with a great gathering of monks and bodhisattvas entered the samadhi.
Samadhi expresses the phenomenon called profound elimination.
At the same time the noble Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva, the mahasattva, observed carefully the practice of the profound protection of the of transcendent wisdom.
There are different kind of sutras, usually categorized in three. First is ..., the teachings that the Buddha gave with his own mouth. These teachings that is called, the teachings that were given orally by the Buddha. Then the second is ..., that is the teachings blessed by the Buddha. Because of the blessing of the Buddha somebody spoke and somebody answered and something like that, and Buddha blessed these teachings. And the third is ..., that is teachings that the Buddha gave his permission. A teaching happened or something like that, and then he said that was good, that teaching you can treat it as my teaching.
And here in this sutra, actually Buddha does not say anything. He just sits there in his profound elimination, meditation, and then the discussion goes on between the Sariputra and the Avalokitesvara, and that is the whole thing. And at the end the Budda gets out of his meditation and says: ”Oh, that was very good, what you said was right”, and then he gave his blessing to the sutra. So therefore here it says:
At that time at when Buddha was sitting in his meditation.
Avalokitesvara was a great bodhisattva - he was a mahasattva. A great bodhisattva-mahasattva. As you know, a bodhisattva is someone who has made this commitment or promise that ”I would like to become an enlightened being for the sake of all sentient beings’. Whoever makes this commitment that ‘I would like to benefit, I would like to help, I would like to liberate all sentient beings from all of their sufferings, and towards that aim I would work, and I would help that happen”, is a bodhisattva.
And mahasattva is not just [one] kind of bodhisattva, but a very great bodhisattva. Avalokitesvara, as you all know, is regarded as one of the greatest of bodhisattvas, the bodhisattva who is ... said to be like the shepherd.
Usually we describe bodhisattvas of three kinds: The king line bodhisattva, the captain line bodhisattva and the shepherd line bodhisattva.
The king line bodhisattva is said to be like a king. Me first, I’m the king! And the king has to have the nicest palace and the most beautiful queen and everything. And then, after the king, then maybe something for the subjects. The king line bodhisattva, is that ‘first I would become enlightened, I would work for myself, and, afterwards when I get enlightened, I would also help other beings.’ That kind of intention.
The captain line bodhisattva, is like the captain. He puts all his passages on the same ship, and then he also goes along [with] it, crossing the river or this sea. So in the same way will the bodhisattva who says that ‘I go along with them. I take all the other sentient beings with me, so therefore when they get across, I also get across.’ This kind of intention that I am around with them.
Then, the shepherd line bodhisattva is like shepherds of the older times, who used to bring the sheep, guard them against the wolves and all other dangers, and then bring them home and put them in a safe place [in the evening]. And then only the shepherd would go home. So this is the kind of bodhisattva who would say that ‘I would first help all the sentient beings to get rid of their sufferings and get into their enlightened state, and then only I will get enlightened myself.’ This kind of bodhisattva has very great courage, very great compassion, and the greatest vastness of their intentions and aspirations. Therefore they are called the greatest of bodhisattvas, the mahasattvas. Therefore the Avalokitesvara is referred to as not only a bodhisattva, but a mahasattva.
Avalokitesvara saw precisely that the five aggregates themselves is empty by nature. What are the five aggregates? In the Buddhist way of thinking we are trying to look at the things, at ourselves, and at our own experience. For instance - ‘this is me, the body and the whole thing, it is me’. But then we are looking more precisely, what is me? What is it that we call me? Is it one thing or many things?
First we say ‘there is my body’. Then, what else is there? We would say that ‘well, I have the feelings’. So this thing feeling, is feeling the same as the body or is there a difference? It is a little bit different, so there is the body and the feeling. And then, is that just all - feelings and the body? No, there is other things also.
So therefore the Buddha tried to look at the five aggregates.
The five aggregates are form, feeling, appraisal, impulse and consciousness.
The thing called me, the thing called I, is not just one thing, but many things.
So this is the first way to try and look at things, and trying to say that emptiness is the nature of the things. For when you try to look at anything, you try to look at it and see whether this is one thing or this is many things. And then we try to find out the actual nature of it.
Shunyata or the emptiness is not an easy thing to understand. I think the best way to describe this is to look at interdependence. It is easier for us to understand if you say that everything is interdependence, rather than saying everything is emptiness.
When we look at something as interdependent, and we really understand the interdependence, then I think we understand a little [more] deeply what we mean by saying that something is emptiness.
When we try to look at anything, any entity, it is interdependence here. It is made of many things together. It is not just one thing, but made of many things, and caused by many things. There is nothing which is just caused by one thing. Everything is caused by many things, and each of them is caused by many things and made of many things and many parts .
If you look at one thing, say this mike - is this one thing or many things?
It is many things. So, it is made of many things. And, in a way, if you really look it, it is not only just made of many things, but almost everything is causing this. There are not only these metals and plastics and the cables and things like that is making this. But even the space where it is, is also a cause of this. And maybe there is a way of looking, that anything which did not prevent this mike happening, is also in a way indirect causes. Would you agree? Something that did not obstruct this mike to happen is also in a way indirectly a cause for it. So it is made up of so many things, and therefore it is interdependent.
When you look at an interdependent thing, then you can see that what we call mike is not just a thing. When we look into the mike, where is the mike? If you take out all the parts that it is made of, then we find that there really is nothing. There is not one thing left called the mike. We just call all this things together a mike. So therefore the mike is more an entity that we can call from ourselves. There is nothing separate in the whole thing which is called mike. A mike is a combination of all these things. It is only when this combination is there, when all the interdependent nature is in a balance there, that we call it a mike. And then, again with different (?) causes maybe it will become something else?
Somewhere in a magazine I once found, somebody was trying to describe the physics of a rainbow. He had been asked the question: When there is a rainbow, what is required? What is the physics of the rainbow? Then he said that in order to have a rainbow, you need the moisture, the rain, and you need the light caught in a particular kind of angle. You need the rain caught in a particular angle, but it is not enough just to have the rain and the light. What else is needed?
Somebody to see it. And for somebody to see it - is it enough that you have somebody with eyes?
Yes, you need the power to see. I have the power to see, but if I sit in a closed room, would I see the rainbow?
Yes, you have to be in a special angle to see the rainbow. Only then. Otherwise, there is no rainbow? The rainbow is there only if there is the rain, if there is the light, if there are people to see it. But just not people. Only if those people are in that angle, where you [can] see it. Only then, the rainbow is there. Otherwise, the rainbow is not there.
I think this is a good example of interdependence. Things are like that. The whole nature of things is that if everything is there, everything is in a kind of the right angle, then it is there. But without all these things, if one of the included things is not there, then the thing is not there. So that is the interdependence. And, according to Buddhism, that is how the how phenomena are. How everything, every entity, including ourselves, is.
According to Buddhism, that understanding have to come at two levels. Of course we have to first have [a] slight understanding, intellectual understanding, a little bit of knowing that ‘it must be like this, like this, like this.’ But, because we have such a strong habitual tendency, such a strong pattern of seeing everything as very real, very solid, it is not easy to see things this way. It is difficult to see the truth, see the way things are, because we have so much [of] strong assumptions, and [such a] strong competence of seeing. Therefore, we try to train ourselves seeing things that way [a] little by little. First by trying to see how I am real, how I am real. How much reality is there? I mean, how much of the interdependence there is. First we try to see a little about that.
And then, when we come to understand that a little more, then our kind of again concept, we try to work on, because seeing this is all unreal, is as unreal as things get this kind of feeling, because this is also our mental fabrication, this is our designation, this is the kind of experience we have!
Maybe that paragraph goes something like this: And then, when we understand the interdependence a little more, we have to work on that too. Because seeing this too is unreal, it is as unreal as anything else, because it is also our mental fabrication. This is our designation, this is our confused way of seeing!
So therefore, according to Buddhism, to see the truth or to have the complete insight into the true nature of things, is the main thing which liberates us, but it is not something which is easy to do. So therefore what we call wisdom comes from there. The meditations and all the different kinds of practices in Buddhism - sitting meditation, making our mind calm and clear, doing positive deeds, accumulating positive deeds, keeping from away from producing negative karma and negative actions - all these things are actually aiming at the complete eradication of our sufferings and the complete eradication of the causes of sufferings. According to Buddhism this cannot happen unless you have full insight into the truth.
So therefore, this trying to understand the true nature of ourselves, the true nature of things, is not something which is just a Buddhist way of doing things. What we are trying to say is that we do not necessarily have to just accept it as a Buddhist way. But we try to look at it as realistically as possible, as scientifically as possible, as truthfully as possible. So this is not something which is a faith thing. If we just believe something, that doesn’t work here. There is understanding here too, belief does not work.
I may say, ‘oh, the Buddha said everything is emptiness, so they must be empty,’ alright? But that does not change anything with me, because that is not understanding it, that is just some kind of believing. Of course, the Buddha said everything is emptiness and it must be emptiness, it is emptiness, he is saying the truth, but that noise does not work, because it's as I see it as I see it. So therefore the whole understanding, the whole work, the whole practise, is to find out ourselves - not just in intellectual way, but in a more experiential way. Through studies, meditations, through whatever way, we have to make this understanding deeper, that is the main understanding
This is not this thing. Aspiration is the way of your attitude towards it, it is when a very compassionate being says that I would first help everybody to get enlightened, then only will I get enlightened’. It does not mean that he will not get enlightened.
He might get enlightened before everybody else, (something said in the audience). Sometimes you just get enlightened, or you get things which you do no want. It is sometimes easier to get what you do not want. There is this story about this person that did this writing. He was usually very kind of joyful person, but then one day people found him really crying.
He said; I have been praying, and I have been thinking that after I die, I would go to hell, because I would try to help those beings. But by all indications now I get, I am not going to the hell, I am going to the heaven, so that is why I am so unhappy.
Q: What is the link between the ego and the Skanda?
R: The Skandas - usually what we think is that I am, so therefore this is my body, this is my fingers and so on, and then the five aggregates is the means to look - where is you ego?
Q: If there is one aggregate is less, maybe there is no ego or?
R: No, no, no. I think it is just a way to dissecting yourself. Dissecting yourself, so that you have a more clear way of looking at yourself - who you are. And the aggregates - [to look at] the five aggregates are one way to do it. There may be other ways. For instance we can look at it in the six senses, we can look at it as the twelve, we can look at it as eighteen, we can look at it in many ways. The five aggregates are one way of looking into ourselves, dissecting ourselves to know what I call myself - is it just the one thing, or is it many things? To see what things are involved in.
So we try to look at it - and that is the way to find the ego.
From the Buddhist point of view, ego is something which is not really there, but a designation for a group of things. From a group of things we are designated, and we make it up with our own mind, like we designate and make up lots of things. From a Buddhist point of view, this is very, very, very important. It is to find out how much we make up with our own mind.
Usually what we think is that ‘this is real’. But then, if you look more carefully, how much of that is really there? Or are you imposing it, or projecting it, computing it? It is very important to look. Then we may find out that the highest percentage, maybe seventy or eighty per cent, of the things we think is actually from our own mind, it is not just in there, but it is our own mind. So, if we find that, then we know how much of the whole world is in a way our own in mental creation. And that helps us to see things in a different light.
Q: I have a feeling of a strong sense of I, of self, because I have control over my body. I can decide to touch this table (noise) or not, but I cannot do that with anybody else’s body. I cannot think with your body ‘I am going to touch this table’, does not want(?), so what is wrong with that attitude? This is what I think ”I” is.
R: Of course. I say ‘I touch, and therefore and therefore I am’? This is my own experience. But the consciousness that gives orders to me, to my body and to my mind and to my other things: What is it? That is the main thing. What is it? How is it? What is the nature of that? That is what we are trying to find out.
It is not saying you are not there. Of course we are. It is not saying that I am just not there, I have disappeared. Even if I whish to disappear, I do not disappear. I am there. I am not only there, but I am also there next life, and I was there last life and so on. But what is it - what is the nature of that I call ”I am”? What is the nature of it? That is what we are trying to look at.
When you search for emptiness, many people have a wrong understanding of it: Emptiness as if it is nothing. Emptiness is not nothing, emptiness is the way that things are. [I used the rainbow as an example earlier] - the way the rainbow is. The rainbow does not disappear because you know the nature of it. Even if you know that the nature of the rainbow is empty, it does not disappear. When you are [there] at the right time and the right conditions are there - then the rainbow is there. It is the same with everything: As I am here, I am here, but what is the nature of ‘I am’? How is it? This is the important thing. So therefore, what we are really dealing with, are the way I look at myself, the way I see myself. That is the way. For instance now I am, but am I the same thing that was there when I was borne? Or am I different now? You were there when you were borne, you are there now, is it the same thing, or a different thing?
Q: You can find arguments for both - that it is the same and that it is different.
R: Like what?
Q: You can say it is the same, because of the bonds from moment to moment. It is connected, but it is not exactly the same, so you can also say that it is not the same.
R: So it is not exactly the same? Then it must be different. So it is different?
Q: Yes, if you put it in that way.
R: You have to choose either. You have to either say one thing or another, you know. It cannot be both the same and different at the same time. So it is different. But, it is similar. Like the way you used to feel may be more or less like you used to feel. That is why it is said that things change, moment by moment.
This moment of myself, this moment of the whole thing, is creating the next moment. And that moment of the whole thing is creating the next moment. So therefore the whole thing is like a river for instance. We say ‘this is the river’. This river has been there for centuries. But is it the same river? The same water? The water is there, but the same? It is always flowing. But because of the continuity, we say this is the same river. But that is how we look at ourselves. The way I was, the way I felt, the way I looked forty years before is completely different. It is completely different, not like now. I was much more beautiful [then]. (Laughter.)
But what I am now, am a product of that. I cannot be now, if I was not then. That is how things change. Things originate in things. So, therefore, the way we try to look at it, is: Is there something there (claps his hands), all time - one thing which did not change? At all? Everything changes. So, from [a] Buddhist point of view, from the shunyata point of view, we say that everything change, but is the same, in a similar way. So that is why we feel it is the same thing.
But this is not something that somebody says ‘it is like this’ and then we believe it is like this. It is something we try to look at ourselves, and to understand. That is the whole purpose. It is just food for thought. (Laughter - there are sounds, indicating someone arranging for food nearby.)
So now we have gone through the first part of the Heart sutra, which is the kind of rainbow, or the story on how the teaching starts. Then we come to this place where - through the power of the inspiration of the Buddha - the venerable Sariputra is addressing the noble Avalokitesvara:
Oh Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, how should a son or daughter of noble family train, who wishes to practise the profound perfection of transcendent wisdom?
Noble family is just an Indian way of saying ‘how should somebody who wishes to practise the profound perfection, the Prajnaparamita, do?’ Then, addressed in this manner, the noble Avalokiteshvara is answering to Sariputra.
Sariputra, as you know, was one of the two main disciples or monks of the Buddha. He is known to be the most intelligent student of the Buddha. Sariputra and ... came together, they lived together, they studied together, and they were so good that very soon their teacher gave them the charge of all those students, and when the teacher passed away, they became the leader of a very big group of Hindu school.
But then, although they had attained lots’ of Buddha’s experiences at different spiritual stages, when they practised, they knew that was not the final thing. It was good, but they knew there was something more, and they wanted to get it. So then they said that ‘now we must go and find a teacher who can really lead us to the ultimate.’ They went two different ways, and had agreed that if one of them found such a teacher, then he would come back. So they went in two different directions. Sariputras friend, he found the five first disciples of the Buddha and going door to door and then again he was impressed. So, in his posture, in his manners, in his personality, he found such a serene, such a wise, such a great influence.
He saw such a great kind of peace and tranquillity and wisdom in him, that he just went to him and he said: Who is your teacher? And then, this was answered with this stanza. He said:Tathagata this is all the things, all the entities, are coming from the causes. There is cessation, there is end, even to these causes. This is what my teacher, the great monk, teaches.
This is my translation. He was very inspired by this, and he wanted him to take him to the Buddha, where he was completely convinced that this was the right teacher,because of his teaching.
So he came back. Sariputra saw him coming back, from very far away, and he could tell that he had already really found the teacher. So then he said: You have found this teacher? Yes I have and then they went there together. They got teachings from the Buddha, and immediately they became his students. From then on the Sariputra became the most intelligent, the most wise, the student with the highest wisdom. He was the greatest.
When new students came, the Buddha used to ask his older students to train them. All the time he used to say: Sariputra is my sharpest, my most intelligent student. But then, of Sariputra’s students only half came out very well. And of Mo...’s students 75%, and of Ka...’s students 100% who came out well. So some people asked the Buddha: Why is this that you are always saying that Sariputra is the best, the sharpest of all students? Shariputra’s own students, they don’t come out that well? And the Buddha said: No, but it is like this. I give this to my best students, but I give the worst students to Sariputra and if I had given the worst students to the other people, they would not have even brought out one well. That is why I am saying he is the brightest, because even if I give him the worst students, he can bring out a rather high percentage. So this is the person, this Sariputra.
So Avalokitesvara, when addressed in this manner, answers the venerable Sariputra:
Oh Sariputra, a son or daughter of noble family who wishes to practise the profound perfection of transcendent wisdom, should see it like this: The five aggregates themselves are empty by nature. One should see that is in a precise and ... way, form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Emptiness is no other than form, form is no other than emptiness. In the same way, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness is then empty.
What he is talking about, is that form is emptiness. Now he is just trying to look at everything, at all the five aggregates, at anything that is there. All the entities, one by one, at how the things are. So he is saying’ form is emptiness’. Form is emptiness - if you dissect form, investigate the form, trying to go deeply into the nature of form, then you find that there is nothing but emptiness.
For instance, this is a belt. But what is a belt? What is it made of? It is made of many different kinds of metals. But then, if you go and try to ‘dissect’ these metals, they are made of many different particles, and these particles are also made of different particles and [so on]. You can go on and on and on to dissect, and then you find in the end, the very smallest particle.
But it cannot be that one, because if it is one, then it cannot have any form. If it is one thing, then it should have no space taken, so that two of them put together should not make it any bigger. It should not have any upside and downside or this side or that side. If it has, you can still split it, and if you split it, then one splitting and then it becomes nothing. Therefore the whole thing, the belt, although you see here, is as if it is made of nothing, because at the end, we do not find anything.
Form is like that, all the forms are like that, made of almost nothing. But, at the same time, they are not nothing. They are there, form is there, and form is color So therefore: ‘Emptiness is form. Emptiness is no other than form. Form is no other than emptiness’. This is a way of saying that emptiness does not mean nothingness. Emptiness is form. Emptiness is things, emptiness is interdependent origination, emptiness is arising.
But, in that arising itself, in form itself - if you look at it deeply, you cannot find any substance, you cannot find an independent existence, not anything. This is how things are, that ... out there ... things or in there, the mental things, it is that nature. This is a very, very important item to understand, that emptiness does not mean nothingness. Emptiness means the nature of things, how all these things are. Emptiness means that because they have no independent nature, there is no completely permanent independent thing.
So therefore they are possible. Everything is possible to be, because there is no real independent nature in it, that is why everything changes. Something happens, and then that changes and that produce another, that changes and produce another. This is why a thing is there, why it can change, why it can react with everything else. It is because everything has this no real independent nature. So that is why all things are like that.
If we understand that it is not like that just for form, but also for feeling, for perception, for all different kind of mental formations and [then we can understand that] even our very consciousness itself is also like that. But if we can understand that, we do not disappear. We do not disappear when we understand emptiness, when we understand the egolessness, we do not become unconscious. You do not forget that ‘I am’. There is something called ‘I’. But your fear, your aversions - all these negative things go away. There is nothing to fear any longer. There is complete peace, and complete confidence is actually arising, because then there is nothing to loose, there is nothing to gain, there is nothing to run after, there is nothing to run away from.
Milarepa used to say: ‘I was so afraid of the death, and then I ran into the mountains. I meditated on the impermanence of death so long, that I completely attend deathlessness.’ By understanding this very, very clearly, and very, very directly - the way the things are, the way yourself are, the way your mind is, the way the things are, you get a complete understanding of the way the things are, so there is no need to feel insecure, to feel afraid or any feeling like that. That is the main understanding. Then it goes on.
Thus Sariputra, all phenomena are empty. They have no characteristics, no origin, no (noise), no purity and so on.
So therefore, if we see the true nature of things, then there are no characteristics, no origins, no cessation, there are no coming, no going. It is all like that. It is a little bit like a dream. It is a little bit like magic. Everything is there when the causes are there, and they are not there when the causes are not there. Therefore there is really nothing to loose, nothing to gain. There is no impurity, no purity, because there is nothing called pure. So you do not have to purify anything, because there is no impurity. When you understand it in this way, then there is nothing to gain, there is nothing you have to get rid of.
That is why Buddha used to say or talked about the form of the truth also. He used to say it three times.
The first time he said: ‘There is suffering. There is a cessation of suffering. There is a cause for suffering. There is a path, a way out of suffering’.
Then the second time he said: ‘There is a cause of suffering, you must eliminate it. There is the cessation of suffering, which you must gain or attain. There is the path out of suffering which you have to thread.’
Then, the third time he said: ‘There is suffering, you must understand it, but there is nothing to understand. There is a cause of suffering, you must eliminate it, but actually there is nothing to eliminate. There is a cessation of suffering, you must attain it, but there is nothing to attain. There is the path, you must thread it, but there is nothing to thread’.
So he gave this in these three ways. If you really [do] understand the last thing, then you really understand the form of truth. So that is the whole understanding, the whole enlightenment!
So it goes on:
Thus, Sariputra, in emptiness there is no form, no feeling, no perception, no mental formations, no consciousness. There is no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind. There is no sound, no smell, no ..., no touch, no phenomena. There is no and so on.
Now we are talking about the whole things, the five aggregates and the twelve interdependent originations - how do we think that there is anything? There is form because we see the form. That is why we say ‘this is form’. We say there is sound, because there is the ear. So therefore when everything that we see is there or not there, it is actually from our own experience. Otherwise we cannot say ‘it is there’, or ‘it is not there’. There is nothing that we can understand, nothing we can know, other than trough the six senses and six sense objects.
When we are talking about theses six senses, no eye, no ear, does not mean I do not have any eye, so I am blind’. It is not like that. But we are talking about the six senses and six sense objects. All those things are like what we just discussed, it is emptiness and appearance is not two things, it is just one thing. It is the way that things are. Emptiness is the nature of things, but the nature of things is also varying, so therefore that is how the things are.
But this is also the understanding of change, of impermanence, the momentariness and the growth and the decay - movement interdependence. All things are like that. So therefore all these things, all these six senses, the six sense objects, and then the consciousness coming out of this six senses - these are the eighteen things. [For instance] like the sense of the eye, and then the object of the eye, and then the consciousness that arises out of the eye and the form. All these three are like that. And in the same way the sense of smell and hearing and feeling and touching and so on. All these things happen in that same way. Not only that, but then it goes on to the:
there is no ignorance from the twelve dependent originations, like ignorance. There is no ignorance, there is no cessation of ignorance, and so on up to old age and then death. No cessation of ...
So there is these twelve interdependent originations, starting from the ignorance, then the image of karma, and then consciousness, and then six senses, and then becoming and then birth and old age and death. So all these twelve dependent originations are in the same way, it is the nature, it is the same thing. Likewise:
there is no suffering, no origin of suffering, no cessation of suffering, no path’.
So these four truths are also in the same way. What he is talking about, is not that some things are more illusory and some things are less. It is not like that. Everything is the same thing. The way everything is, is in the same way. So therefore, even what we call the four noble truths, are in the same way: The suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation and the path, all are in the same way.
There is no awareness, no accomplishment, no non-accomplishment.
So therefore, not only these four noble truths, but even the Buddhahood, the enlightenment, everything, awareness, accomplishment, non-accomplishment, all these things are also in the same way. So therefore, all the things, every entity, everything, it has the same nature. And that is the same thing, it is the way things are. And if we understand that, the way that the things really are, then we have no special grasping on something, and no special aversion to things, so therefore we understand deeply that there is nothing to protect against, nothing to protect.
In our mundane world, the samsaric state of mind, the main thing is the sense of insecurity. Because we have this strong sense of insecurity, we always have to reconfirm ourselves. Reconfirm our existence, reconfirm our security, reconfirm and try to protect ourselves from everything. Reconfirm our identity again and again and again. But if you understand that really there is nothing to secure, nothing to feel insecure about, then there is no need of doing that. So therefore, that is the real basis for our ... selfishness. It is this insecurity, and if we find that there is nothing to be secured from, nothing to secure, and nothing to feel insecure of, then there is a great liberty, great relief, and that, I think, is what we call the greatest kind of peace. So that is what he is talking about.
Therefore, Sariputra, because the bodhisattva said nothing to attain, they leave it up to the profound perfection of transcendent wisdom, and dwell in their minds being without a veil, there is no fear.
Having reached beyond this, they attain the state beyond suffering. We actually already have discussed this. The way we get Buddha’s relief, Buddha’s freedom or complete carelessness comes from that. Sometimes people say that because I feel insecure, I must exert myself, I must think that I am there, I must prove that I am there, that I am strong and that I am succeeding. I do not think you can actually do that. Maybe you can do a little bit, but you cannot completely get rid of the insecurity that way. The real way, if you want to do it completely, if you want to get rid of things, you have to understand that there is nothing to secure, there is nothing that we need to feel insecure about, and then we have the real security feeling the real confidence, and there is the understanding, and peace of mind. There is the complete confidence that whatever happens, you stay confident. So that is the Buddhist way of thinking.
All the Buddhas manifesting in the three times effectively have attained the totally purity and perfect awakening by living it up to this profound transcendent wisdom.
So this is what he is saying [about] all the Buddhas of the three times, Buddhas from the past, Buddhas from the present and Buddhas in the future, that their wisdom is this, their confidence is this, their attainment is this, that they see things clairly. They see things completely, and there is nothing that is not understood, because the way the things are, is the same. So therefore this is the transcendent wisdom, because it is not a wisdom that is temporary. It is something which is not based on temporary understanding or misunderstanding. It is a transcending wisdom because it is beyond. It is not just a kind of intellectual understanding, it is the transcendent wisdom, it is a transcendental knowledge, it is an experience which is completely, perfectly full.
These understandings are on many different levels, and the first understanding are that you get a little bit of understanding, intellectual understanding. You think that, ‘well there must be something like that, it is almost like that.’ That is the first understanding, which is like knowledge, comprehension. Then, there is a deeper understanding that is more experience. You kind of understand it, you know it, you have a little bit deeper understanding, and some sense of experience, but the experience is not complete, so sometimes it comes and sometimes it goes. That kind of experience goes deeper and deeper, then you have the complete understanding like enlightenment, which is deeper.
You have become completely one with it, you have no doubt about it, it is the experience, this is the real, liberating experience, the enlightenment experience. This is the transcendent wisdom that is beyond, not just intellectual, this is the transcendent wisdom that goes beyond all the concepts. It is not just a concept, it goes beyond the concepts, so therefore it is a transcendental wisdom. It is not just saying this is right, this is not. It is not like that, ... it is a direct understanding. Direct means it is experiential, so therefore there is no concept. The concept is always wrong, in a way, so therefore it is not right just for that. You are making up something, you are kind of giving a designation, giving a name that it is not there, but this is something like an example often used: Looking from the top of a very high mountain everything is completely clear, there is nothing not seen. There is transcendent wisdom.
The mantra of transcendent wisdom, the mantra of great insight, the unsurpassable mantra, a mantra that equals the unequalled, the mantra that perfectly dissipates all suffering, should be known as the truth, since there is no falsehood.
The mantra of the perfection of transcendent wisdom is that way. So this is the mantra, this understanding is the mantra actually. This transcendent wisdom is the mantra, the mantra of the great insight, because it is the complete, the truth, it is the insight, it is seeing the truth, seeing ultimate truth directly.
This is an unsurpassed mantra, because there is nothing beyond that. It is the complete mantra, so therefore there is nothing beyond or above it. The mantra that equals the unequalled, because it’s completely unique form, it is completely understanding. So therefore it is not that now I have to get this, after this. It is not like that. It is not completely equal, because there is no unequility, there is no (noise) saying everything. The mantra that perfectly dissipates all suffering. Because the suffering comes from this misunderstanding, and the misunderstanding is formed into habit and pattern, therefore suffering comes, as we discussed before.
So therefore this gets to the root of the cause of the suffering, and works on the very bottom, the very root of the suffering, which is the misunderstanding, which is the ignorance. It is therefore that it completely dissipates the self. I mean, should we know less truth, since there is no fault? Even the word truth. There is nothing called truth against untruth. There is nothing untrue, but true. It is not like a judgement - this is untrue, this is true - it is not like that, but because there is nothing also ..., there is no non-truth, so therefore you can call it the truth, the matter of the perfection of the transcendent wisdom, the whole thing is this.
But just to give it in a short form, the mantra:
teyata om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
This is the shortest kind of [the] mantra of transcendental wisdom. And the meaning of this is: Tadyata om - thus it is, or something like that. Om is the first word, first sound, the auditive of all the sounds, so therefore it is there, gate means going, you know, gone. Paragata means the beyond, gone beyond. Parasamgate, means to go beyond very much means the understood, enlightened origin and thereby having no deceptions, having no fear, so this understanding,
I will not be going through all the words of this mantra. But that is how the mantra of the Prajnaparamita is very shortly defined by the Avalokitesvara, answering to Sariputra..
So then, so that is all.
Thus Sariputra, it is in this manner, that the bodhisattva-mahasattva should train in the profound perfection of transcendental wisdom.
That is what the Avalokitesvara says, ‘this is how, Sariputra, we have to train’, and that is the end.
But then, the interesting thing happened. The blessed One arose from that samadhi, and approved the words of the noble Avalokitesvara the Buddha got out of his samadhi. He was in meditation till then, and then he came out. Obviously he was not really good in meditation, he was listening to what was said. He was, you know, in this meditation, but actually listening to what was said.
[Does this mean he was not good in meditation?] Maybe our concept of meditation is that we have to be completely calm and quiet, and we should not hear anything, we should not "perceive anything". That is not the Buddha’s meditation. Buddha’s meditation is complete understanding, as we have already said, so just being is meditation. There is nothing that you have to meditate and you have to get out of to meditate.
So therefore, when you talk about Buddha going into this profound elimination, meditation or something like that, it is not really that he is getting into it. Is he sitting there without any distinction. It is not like that. So therefore, when he gets out of this, then he talks to them.
Good, good, O son of noble family. Thus it is, thus it really is.
I mean, that is how it is, whatever the Avalokitesvara said, that is right. So he confirms and encourages.
One should practise the profound perfection of transcendent wisdom just as you have expounded it. Tatagathas themselves rejoiced.
The Tatagathas means the Buddhas. Buddha used to call himself the Tathagata. Tathagata means gone as before, so Tathagata means those who have gone the way previous enlightened beings have gone. And this indicates that the Buddha was not the first enlightened being. He was the last enlightened being, so therefore he said Tathagata, ‘gone as they were gone’, who had threaded the path that the previous Buddhas threaded - the previous Buddhas had come, so therefore Tathagata.
‘The Thatagathas themselves rejoiced’, means that all the Buddhas therefore rejoiced. Rejoiced of the great understanding of the truth that has been expounded.
When the Blessed One had said this, venerable Sariputra and noble Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva-mahasattva, all those who were in this assembly, as well as the world of the devas, humans, asuras, ghandharvas rejoiced, and praised the words of the Blessed One.
This is another thing that the Buddha said at the end of every sutra, that everybody rejoiced. Not only the human beings, but other forms of beings as well, like the devas and asuras and ghadharvas and everybody rejoiced. This is what he asked them to add at the end of every [sutra], to know that one set of teaching is finished, and also to know that the humans are not the only people. (Laughter.) Not the only people who can do things, and who can understand things and who can appreciate and who can practise dharma. It is not like that, there are other beings, other forms, and other states of beings, and devils or beings who can also do that, so therefore he asked people to state things this way.
So that is the end of the Hearth Sutra. We have just very briefly gone through it, we do not have much time to comprehend and [go] deeply into it, and if there [is] any [questions, you] can ask.
Q: Does this ultimate truth exist outside of myself, because the only way I can experience things with my eyes, I can see, I can hear, I can feel, but how can I be sure this is the ultimate truth, there has to be always some doubt that this is really it?
R: The ultimate truth is always there. It is not outside or inside or anywhere. What we are talking about here, is whether we can perceive the ultimate truth as it is or not. So therefore, we are just talking about that. We are not talking about (noise) there is this ultimate truth. There is nothing outside or inside it. Ultimate truth is ultimate truth, it is there. The way that things are, that is ultimate truth. But, what we are talking about is how we perceive, is the way. As long as there is any doubt, then it is not perceiving the ultimate truth. If you are completely perceiving the ultimate truth, then there is no doubt. That is the main thing. A way of seeing which is completely doubtless, complete understanding, complete clarity, that is the time that you see or you understand perfect truth. But that is not just [some] kind of a doubtless like our arrogant doubtlessness, but it is a very deep, complete doubtlessness.
Q: If one were quoting the text, what exactly was this meditation, what did he meditate on?
R: Well, I do not know. He must have meditated on many things, but here, in this quotation, he said ‘I was afraid of the death, and so therefore I fled into the mountains. I meditated on the uncertainty of death until I attained the security of deathlessness. Now, even the Yamaraja, this is the death that himself comes, I have no fear.’ That is just the quotation I gave, in relation to the understanding of the fear. We fear because we feel insecure, and we feel that there is something to feel insecure about, something to protect and something to be protected against. So therefore, everything that comes, there is something very fearful or something protective or something, but when you understand that there is really nothing to protect, there is nothing to feel insecure about - then there is no fear. That is the deathlessness, what the realizing [of] deathlessness means, realizing that there is nothing in you separate from this ever-changing complex arising thing, this interdependent thing, which anyway goes on and on and on. And separate from that, there is nothing - which is to die. In a way, everything dies, moment by moment, in a way, [but] there [really] is nothing to die. Therefore, if you have this understanding of the way that things really are, then your fear of death goes. Because you find, that there is nothing to die.
Q: So you always look in that, repeated that because ... ... ... one time, there is no big change from ... ... .... that every thing, every moment or moment from moment of things are different, whether I do this one time or two times, nothing happens for me?
R: No, no!
Q: Did you repeat this always, or what - why - in which way do you have insight by this nothing? This I do not understand.
R: Yea, of course, you repeat it. That is the practice. The practise is repeating, you know, making it familiar. First you try to find a little bit - you try to dare to look. That is the first thing. It is very difficult even to dare to look, because we are very afraid what we will find. It is not easy to look inside ourselves.
One could be even discomforted ... ourselves. Like you said, I am here, I can order my hand to (laughter, noise), that is alright, comfortable. Now, I do not want to look deeper, because then I might find something strange, [something] that is not so nice, which is not familiar. So therefore it is very difficult for us to be able to really completely dare to bare, dare to look completely at ourselves, very unkind of ... to be, at the way we are, which is difficult, and more difficult when we try - we almost find a little bit, the way we are. How not real solid we are. We try to find that we are even more you know, kind of afraid to look, because we feel that there is no identity, our identity is being lost. We fear that our identity may be lost, something like that. So therefore it is not a easy thing to - but then, if you really do that, if you want to look at it from close range, more directly and completely daring, then you find a little bit of understanding.
And then, that understanding is a first distant kind of comprehensive understanding, a little bit of intellectual understanding. That intellectual understanding does not transform us, it is just a concept, it is just an understanding, but not any [real] experience. It does not transform us. Now, that understanding has to be very deepened, and become experience. And that is the hard work. That is where the hard work comes, the meditation. I think it was Milarepa who that said that ... ... ... Although the Dharma is selflessness, but the one who gets it, is the one who has bourne in their heart. You do not understand? That is a Tibetan idiom. One who has really hard-working self determination [is] better for the understanding ... completely get it. What you mean to say is, that one really has to work hard, because we are used to a certain way, we call it habitual tendency.
This habitual tendency is very difficult to reverse, or to get rid of, because it is comfortable and we get into it. We have made up all the things so that everything fit together in a way, so therefore it is not easy to disturb. So therefore working on it - working with our habitual tendencies, with our patterns which are very, very deep, so therefore, it is not necessary to ... like this. So, even if we have certain kind of addictions, certain kind of habits - in a few years it is not easy to give up. So therefore this is a habit we got for - I do not know how long. It's concept that it will be easy, but this is the process.
And this seeing - we are trying to see the truth, the way things are. We are not trying to delude ourselves with beliefs and with philosophies and things, we are trying to see the truth, so therefore, if we are honest , if we are unbiased, then we just look and maybe slowly, slowly.
But then, it is not just understanding, but more an experience!
Q: Is it alright if you just have a very tiny bit of understanding? If your understanding is so small, is it actually valuable to practice this, is it all right just to practise this, and maybe say the refuge in the beginning and the dedication in the end, is that enough?
Can this be: Is it alright if you just have a very tiny bit of understanding to say the refuge in the beginning, then the mantra or sutra and the dedication in the end, is that enough?
R: Well, you can do that too. They say that it is so powerful, that sometimes you get the realization. In the eleventh or twelfth century there was this Tibetan lady, she was very young, she was very good at reading, an unsurpassed reader. It was the tradition in Tibet, to bring some lamas to read the prajnaparamita sutras, the big one in twelve volumes. But the lamas were not that quick. To read one volume, they sometimes need three days, if they are not very good at [reading] it. But she could read these twelve volumes, in a few days. She could read more than one volume in a day - two, three, four volumes. So they asked her to read these, and brought her everywhere. She read this Prajnaparamitra sutras so many times that she just got one instruction by this Indian yogi and she got complete realization.
She actually started a system, a new lineage, do you know this practise? That is started by her, based on the understanding of the Prajnaparamita, just by reading. So maybe should you read it again and again also. Maybe your understanding might deepen and become realization, but that is not really the most practical way of practising.
The first thing is you try to understand it. Then you try to read other books on these things, but I think the first thing, is meditations. All meditations are leading towards that. So the shamata meditation for instance is also the first step, letting your mind calm down a little bit, letting your mind become a little bit clearer. Then, the Prajnaparamita.
The Prajnaparamita is trying to look at things. Trying to look at this so called mindfulness, the mindfulness of the body, so you kind of just be and look and contact in a way. The contact, looking on your body, what is the body? Where is the body? What is the body made of? Looking at the different sections of the body, what is it, how is it, things like that. So making it more ... And then the feeling? What is the feeling, and how the feeling changes, and how the things is related to this, and things like that.
There is a set of meditations based on these techniques also. But also these meditations like Mahamudra meditation, like any meditation, all these are also the same, is working on this. So therefore, anything, like even this Vajrayana, all these different kinds of visualisations and completion states of meditation is actually this, the completion state meditation. In Vajrayana you have what we call the creative or developing state and completion state. The completion state is nothing but this Prajnaparamita. So therefore, just letting your mind being, being in the present moment completely, that is also actually experientially, just being completely in the present moment and being aware, that is [a] very strong way of understanding Prajnaparamita. Understanding because, it is a way of being, a way of awareness without making concepts. So, if you can become aware without concepts, that is in a way the true way of things. So, it just has been learned in our own experience.
So I think we may stop here. So, thank you very much, nice being here.
© Dr. Ringu Tulku